Navy eyes sub, new frigates
Bangladesh Navy seeks implementation of an ambitious ten-year plan to upgrade it into a three-dimensional force by introducing new frigates, a submarine, maritime patrol aircraft, helicopters and other equipment with an estimated cost of Tk 6,000 crore.
The navy has recently sent the plan prepared in line with the proposed Forces Goal-2020 to the Armed Forces Division (AFD) after considering the recent maritime situation, budgetary allocation, market prices of required equipment and other matters, says the force in a report.
The Daily Star obtained a copy of the report placed before the parliamentary standing committee on the defence ministry on Monday.
The navy plans include purchase of three frigates, three large patrol aircraft, 12 patrol craft, two landing craft utility (LCU), one hydrographic unit, one salvage vessel, four missile boats and installation of new missiles in some ships to strengthen its surface fleet.
It has proposed introducing its own aviation fleet to consolidate combat capability of the surface fleet by purchasing three maritime patrol aircraft and four helicopters in the next 10 years.
The navy also discloses a plan for purchasing a submarine by 2019 for the flotilla. It says the government has approved in principle this proposed purchase.
"Before purchasing the submarine, steps have already been taken to build infrastructure and train up personnel. When the preparatory work is completed, it will be possible to initiate steps to purchase a submarine by 2019," the navy report adds.
"Bangladesh Navy will obtain capability of a three-dimensional force if its aviation wing and a submarine are added to its fleet," believes the navy, tasked with protecting the nation's territorial waters, safeguard Bangladesh's economic interest and exercise maritime control within the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf.
Citing the need for a three dimensional modern force, the navy says aircraft and submarines along with surface fleets are considered essential parts to increase a navy's combat capability.
"It was not possible in the past to introduce aircraft and submarines in the fleet due to various adversities despite having the plan and desire," the navy observes.
Apart from purchasing equipment, it also proposed formation of SWADS Command for carrying out a special warfare to control militancy and smuggling in sea and rivers.
"If the special force is formed, it will be able to play active role along with the two other forces in sea and rivers," the navy said.
The navy also proposes increasing its personnel, setting up naval bases and training institutes. The proposals now await the government's consideration.
The proposals include setting up bases for naval commandos, divers, rescuers and naval aviation, and development of a naval base in Mongla.
Other proposals are installation of a junior staff training institute, navy hydrographic unit, oceanographic centre and operational sea training guide, and approval of the organogram of Khulna and Narayanganj shipyards.
The navy is also preparing more proposals to this end for sending to the government for consideration. Those include setting up of a naval base at St Martine's Island, submarine base, setting up a separate naval base in Dhaka, and restructuring the organogram of the naval headquarters and area commanders' headquarters.
On manpower, the navy proposes increasing 4,000 personnel of various ranks in the next 10 years. The existing approved manpower of the navy is 17,000.
The navy says based on the possible allocation of fund every year, the process of purchasing and building surface and aviation platforms to achieve three-dimensional ability will continue. Off-the-shelf purchase process will also continue simultaneously that would cost less and save time, it adds.
"Additional allocation of Tk 1,200 crore will be required for purchasing submarine, the hydrographic unit and the salvage ship," the navy says, adding, "An estimated allocation of Tk 5,000 will be required for principal purchase and development in the next 10 years."
The principal purchase excludes the submarine, hydrographic unit and the salvage ship.
As per the plan, three large patrol craft and 12 patrol craft will be built at the navy's own shipyards. Purchase of two helicopters and two maritime patrol aircraft are under process, the report says.
In defence for replacing three frigates -- Abu Bakar, Omar Faruk and Ali Haider -- the navy says the ships were built in 1953, 1953 and 1957 and Tk 300 crore will be required to upgrade those. Upgrading the old vessels is not viable, the navy claims.
The navy also proposes replacing four out of the eight missile boats -- Durbar, Duranto, Uttal and Durdanto. Those were commissioned in 1983, 1983, 1992 and 1988. It says Tk 200 crore would be required to upgrade the missile boats.
The report says as many as 82 ships, small and large, are in the navy's fleet. Most of the ships are older that 25 years. Only 15 ships/craft are aged under 25 years. Combat capability of the old ships has decreased and their maintenance and operation cost is high as well as risky, the navy adds.
It says, "With the old ships and present infrastructures, it is becoming difficult to discharge [the navy's] crucial duties."